In a perfect world, there would be no gays or lesbians in the Catholic, Baptist or Mormon churches. Nor among Muslims or other religious faiths that cannot handle homosexuality as part of God’s creation.

I admit some solace each time I see the self-righteous in such conservative faiths have to grapple with the fact that they have faithful card-carrying loved ones who turn up gay. Oh, the shame! How can it be?  We raised them right, taught them the doctrine, treated them like the rest of our offspring.  Then, what did they do? They betrayed our child-rearing efforts  by claiming to love people of their own gender.

But in their simple way of thinking , they believe their offspring are only confused or have been led astray and tempted — by the devil and the world. They believe homosexuality is hooey and that God surely wouldn’t make it part of his perfect creation, and that is just pure selfishness.  Or you just haven’t yet found the right boy or girl of the opposite sex.

So the Phoenix News Times’s current issue has a cover story, “Over the Rainbow: The Namesake Son of Conservative Matt Salmon Wants to Make A Name in Republican Politics, Too.”

This has got to be the worst nightmare for a  prominent Arizona Mormon and Republican family.  His father, Matthew J. Salmon, served three  terms in Congress (1995-2001) from the East Valley and then was defeated in 2002 as the Republican candidate for governor of Arizona. Young Matt, 22, is the new president of the Arizona  Log Cabin Republicans, gay members of the GOP who advocate for a place in that party and to break down the onerous resistance and intolerance to gays.

What adds great irony is that  young Matt’s gay partner is none other than Kent Flake, 26, second cousin of 6th District  Congressman Jeff Flake, who essentially followed in the same seat as the senior Salmon.  So we have two guys from two prominent Arizona families — Republican and Mormon — in love and brazen and courageous enough to let the press hear their story.  And it is a heartening story about authenticity of two bright young men, now getting their education in medical fields.   They are getting a cold reaction from their families who are so fixated on the world view crafted  by religious right that regards homosexuality as nothing more than perversion.  Matt the Younger tells of going through prayer,  fasting, guilt, dealing with his immediate Mormon leaders, undergoing useless reparative therapy to “cure” him of his gay leanings and giving dating with a girl a try.  His therapist was Mormon whose techniques were described by Salmon as “Freudian.”  He was told that because his father was gone so much in political work, he, the younger Salmon, missed “some developmental steps … You have these tendencies because when you were little, you didn’t  let yourself become attached to other men. So, in not letting yourself develop healthy relationships with other men, the exotic becomes the erotic.”

Huh?  “I look back at how brainwashed I was,” he told New Times. Both he and Kent Flake have had their names removed from the rolls of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The article tells how Arizona Republicans have had moments of enlightenment with gays.  Former Congressman Jim Kolbe came out of the closet to wide publicity in 1996 — the same for former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano, once a Republican, who survived a recall by gay-haters in 2001 and finished out 14 years on the city council, including 10 as mayor. Giuliano went on to lead the national Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD).   Also quoted is Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democratic state legislator and bisexual woman, with a long history of fighting discrimination and hate.  And we all recall how Arizona Republicans’ icon, the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, “Mr. Conservative,” famously said, “You don’t need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.”   He opposed government policies to ban opening gay people from serving in the U.S. military.

Goldwater was like so many people who have relatives who are gay. They love and respect them and get the enlightened realization that being gay does not and should not limit one’s ability to do what others can do.

Who cannot deny the sea change taking place that will sweep away  the resistance?  Society is way ahead of religionists who are so mired in texts of the ancients who were clueless about psycho-sexual physiology.  Anti-gay Christians cling to a tiny handful of scriptures that, subjected to scholastic scrutiny, lose the definitive verdict that they so throw out. Yet they reject the notion that biblical writers in the early centuries A.D. knew nothing about testosterone, XY genes and hormones.

The Rev. Vernon Meyer, who resigned from the active priesthood in July only to be excommunicated last week for taking part in the ordination of a women in an independent Catholic in Tempe, can always be counted on to speak truth to power and ignorance:  “There can be no qualification of human dignity. Either we are all equal and therefore have equal access to ministry, or you cannot say you believe in human dignity, but only for a select group. Women have dignity not because they are complements to men, but because God gave it to them. Gays and lesbians have the same dignity as straight people, because to say anything less, like ‘they are disordered,’ means God somehow makes mistakes in the order of creation. Perhaps the institution of church does believe in an imperfect God or a God who creates something that is disordered or of lesser dignity?”

I say this so often:  While we would like to believe that truth and ideas, debate and teaching break down bigotry, fear and ignorance, it is the passing of generations — death itself — that removes obstinance and obstacles to human progress. Successive generations seem to understand things better.

I hope the Salmon and Flake families embrace their sons for what they are — as authentic being gay as they are straight. They can join Parents, Families  and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG). The task is tall, what with their church being in total denial on homosexual issues.   The suicides, the shunning, the loss of the love of their families result.  We salute the work of Affirmation, the longtime support group for gay Mormons.

Matt Salmon says it’s been a short time since Matt and Nancy Salmon got the fuller story on their son’s quest to be who he is. “It took me 20 years to accept that I’m gay and to live openly and understand equality issues. I can’t expect them to do it in four months,” he said in the New Times’ closing to the powerful article.  May Matt Salmon and his partner Kent Flake help show the way for Republicans, Mormons and others  whose eyes and minds are not yet open.

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